Tag Archives: habanero

Poutu-te-rangi / March

edge
Dry maize rustles musically in the breeze

From Sweltering Summer to Temperate Autumn

The maize along the fenceline is ready for harvest. It’s a visual reminder that summer is over. The days are slow to lighten and early to darken, and the grass is thick with dew when I make my way to the barn in the early morning. The gravel road is dry and whenever a large truck rattles by, great dusty clouds drift across to settle on our solar panels.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written about South Head. Or about anything, for that matter. It’s been difficult to knuckle down to writing after taking time off over the Christmas/New Year period.

While it’s been a very long and hot summer, we’ve also had a decent amount of rain, which of course has meant that everything has just kept on growing. We’ve created enough gardens here to keep us busy every daytime hour, and for the first time I’ve been wondering if it’s too much. What with the dead-heading, the trimming, the watering, the sowing, the harvesting… not to mention the tying, the squashing (caterpillars), the sampling, the digging and the weeding, always the weeding. (It’s making me exhausted all over again, writing about it.)

alpaca
Kumeu A & P Show: curious alpaca & disinterested rooster

So… we’ve mostly been home over the weekends slaving away in an attempt to keep everything under control, with a couple of diversionary breaks visiting the local A & P Shows – I like to check out the poultry while Ben looks longingly at the tractors. 🙂


 Bounty from the Garden

preserves
A selection of home preserves, from left to right: Beetroot; ‘Look Alike’ Lemon Curd; Spicy Tomato Sauce; Zucchini Pickle; Greek Tomato Paste

Since I last blogged we’ve harvested a parade of fresh produce, including grapes, lettuces, carrots, rhubarb, cannellino beans, sweet basil, garlic, cucumbers, peas, beans (green, yellow, purple), main crop potatoes (Agria), beetroot, silver beet, shallots, buttercup squash, tomatoes, butternut pumpkins and LOTS of of zucchini.

produce.jpg
A selection of produce, from left to right: white table grapes; cannellino beans; Rhubarb Tarte Tartin

To use up the rhubarb and zucchini I’ve made several Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and a few jars of Lemon Curd Look-Alike, as well as some zucchini pickle. But the neat thing about this year is that we haven’t had too much of one particular vegetable. Everything we’ve grown we’ve either eaten fresh, or I’ve cooked up, preserved, frozen or baked into something.

Tomatoes and Zucchinis

toms and peppers
Left to right: tomatoes & onions ready to be cooked for Tomato Relish; red and yellow habanero slices, arranged for drying

The tomatoes have been great, but I picked the last one yesterday and I know I’ll miss having them on hand at meal times. I’m glad that I preserved a good amount this season (Spicy Tomato Sauce, Tomato Relish, Greek Tomato Paste) and that I also froze about a dozen packs of frozen skinless tomato flesh for use during the cooler months.

Recipes

One of the easiest salads to throw together involves mixing chopped tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil (made into a paste), a generous squirt of extra virgin olive oil and finely sliced or diced zucchini or cucumber. I read somewhere that raw zucchini helps you feel ‘more full’ than some of our other salad vegetables, and it’s lovely and light when sliced thinly.

I love cooked zucchini, too. It’s such a versatile vegetable. My favourite quick recipe involves slicing the zucchinis thickly, then sautéing them in a small amount of olive oil along with crushed garlic and sage leaves. The sage leaves turn crispy and add a delightfully fragrant ‘crunch’ to the dish.

Habanero

peppers
3 stages of habanero peppers – fresh to dry

Our habanero chiles are ripening as I type, so I’m picking them each day, drying them, then nuking them in a small food processor. We’ll use the chile powder all through the year to jazz up our meals. One of my favourite uses is to sprinkle a liberal amount into cheese toasted sandwiches. Yum!! (It’s very hot, though – not for the chile uninitiated.)

I’ve also raised a pink variety of habanero this year. It’s currently at the flowering stage, so, no fruit, but I can’t wait to see what they look like!

Pears

pears
Autumn pears & the finished product

March in New Zealand is the month for pears and melons. Our old pear tree has produced a good amount of sound fruit this year and yesterday I bottled a small sample in a light syrup. Not sure why I haven’t processed our pears this way before – I usually freeze them for desserts – but I do like to see the finished product in our pantry. And it’s so easy to preserve them using the water-bath method.

I didn’t remember until after I’d finished that you’re supposed to pack the fruit tightly into the jars to avoid having them float to the top of the syrup… oh well… next time!

Melons

melons
Melon, ‘Collective Farm Woman’ (Cucumis melo)

I sowed seeds for a different melon this year, Collective Farm Woman. It’s a small Ukrainian melon from the Black Sea area, about the size of a honeydew, with pale flesh, the flavour delicately sweet and slightly evocative of bananas.


 Bantams!

bantams
Our new bantam hens (left) and Charlie

We picked up a trio of Bantams at the recent Helensville A & P Show. They’ve settled in well and having Charlie (the rooster) crow loudly at 5.15 am hasn’t been too much of a shock.

When we first let the bantams join the rest of the flock, they kept to themselves, but they’re now walking around alongside the others. They choose to sleep outside  – the rooster up high in a branch of one of the feijoa trees, and the two girls on the fence below. Not sure if they’ll ever voluntarily join the hens in the barn. Perhaps we’ll have to manually move them there in Winter when it gets cold at night.

That reminds me… feijoas! They’re growing plump on the trees. And just now I can see two fat kereru perched up on the yellow guava, eating the first of the golden yellow fruit. The kereru started visiting again a couple of weeks back – I guess our garden is part of their seasonal food cycle, too.


sunrise
Autumn: Looking across The Kaipara at dawn

 

 

 

 

Chile Dreams / Ngaa Moemoeaa Hirikakaa

or… how to wile away an afternoon instead of working on your current writing project.

The finished product
The finished product

This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori, hence my attempt at dual headings.  The macrons don’t seem to always display that well, so in same cases I’ve reverted to double vowels.

My Road to Chiles
Tāku Ara ki Ngā Hirikakā

From the day I first tasted a pickled jalapeno on a pizza, I’ve always loved chiles. Very early on I was a member of a chile pepper Usenet newsgroup – this was back in 1994/1995, and a time when the internet as we know it now, was still in its infancy.   You weren’t able to browse gazillions of web pages then, nor purchase unusual chile seeds online.  A friend sent me some Habanero seeds by snail mail, all the way from the US.  Of course, it was probably illegal to do this, but I didn’t think about such things back then, I was just so keen to try them.  I nurtured the precious plants under plastic in my (then) Dunedin garden.

Habanero
Ngā Hirikakā Tino Kakā

The Habanero is still my absolute favourite pepper.  In my opinion, it is the most floral and fragrant of them all and I love the heat.  I use Habanero everywhere; in curries and pickles, sauces and pastes, even in a Hot Martini! 🙂

A chile plant in July at South Head.
A chile plant in July at South Head.

I have grown Habanero, Jalapeno, Serrano and other assorted peppers continuously, since moving to South Head. In fact, my plants are still bearing chiles, out there in the cold, wintry conditions… They are so prolific that by the end of a season, I get somewhat lazy about harvesting them.

Keeping Chiles for Later Use
Hei Rokiroki ngā Hirikakā

My usual practice has been to pick the chiles when they are fully ripe, wash and dry them thoroughly, then freeze them whole.  This is an excellent way to store these jewel-like fruit as you can just take one out and slice off a chunk when you need it.  The problem is, we can never keep up with eating them and there are bags of them in the freezer – some going back a couple of years.  They don’t seem to deteriorate.

This year I thought I’d try preserving some by drying. I’ve seen those neat little jars in home ware shops – the ones with a glass body and a stainless steel screw-top lid with holes. Dried chile is such a beautiful colour, how nice it would be to have our very own flakes or powder, to use as a condiment.

Drying Chiles
Hei Whakamaroke ngā Hirikakā

Chilli peppers strung up in the barn.
Chile peppers strung up in the barn.

I wouldn’t say that my technique was completely successful.  I diligently harvested a mixture of Habanero and Caribbean Red Habanero, threaded them on strings, and strung them up in both the barn and the hot water cupboard. I kept a few back to use fresh – they were in a rourou on the bench, then forgot about them.  Amusingly, a few weeks later, I noticed that these were starting to dry quite well, so I put the rourou into the hot water cupboard as well.

dried chiles

Today I decided it was high time to do something with these peppers. Every time I went to put some linen in the cupboard, I had to push it behind the chiles rattling on their strings.  Interestingly, I discovered that the peppers that had dried the best, i.e., had no mouldy-looking discolouration, were actually the ones in the rourou.

The End Product
Te Mea Whakamutunga

flakes

I discarded any that didn’t look good enough for my high standards (!)  This reduced my stock by at least 50%.  I then trimmed the stalks off the others and nuked them in my blender/grinder.

The result is a lovely HOT product – a chili powder/flake, which will be ideal to sprinkle on foods, or to add at the cooking stage – IF YOU DARE.  I was using a pastry brush to sweep out the last powdery residue from the grinder – didn’t want to waste any – and inhaled some. Yowsa it was hot, and I coughed for about five minutes.


Recipes
Ngā Tohutaka

Hot Martini

This is the recipe that we use, but I can’t find where I sourced it, unfortunately.

  • 60 mls gin
  • 7.5 mls Dry Vermouth
  • Splash of aromatic bitters
  • Slice of Habanero chile to taste
  • 3 green olives

Habanero Martini

I also found this recipe on the net. It sounds much hotter – perhaps we’ll check it out tonight.

Ingredients

  • ½ habanero pepper
  • 60 mls agave tequila
  • 15 mls dry vermouth
  • Ice

Instructions

  1. In a cocktail glass muddle the habanero to release some juices. Do not pulverise. Keep the pepper in the glass, or remove it for a (slightly) lesser heat.
  2. Combine over ice the tequila and vermouth. Shake well. Then pour the mix over the muddled habanero.

If you are interested in chiles, here is a useful link Chile Pepper Varieties

The Habanero Martini recipe is borrowed from PepperScale’s site – lots of neat recipes there.

Kō tēnei Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori!

Plum and Habanero Jam

Fiery Plum and Habanero Jam

We've picked just about the last of our plums today.
We’ve picked just about the last of our plums today.

We’ve had so many plums this season, despite the wind that destroyed so many in mid-December.  I’ve been making ‘Plum Everything’, including having started a batch of plum wine.  But I think there is nothing nicer than a Plum Jam, as it’s so versatile.

This year I decided to invent a spicy version – and it’s turned out extremely well.

For the spicy component I used Habanero that I’d grown last season and had frozen, as our current plant is too small to produce any fruit yet.  It’s been a slow season in the garden due to the inclement weather in December.

Four of our home-grown Habanero chilis
Four of our home-grown Habanero chilies

Habanero is my absolute favourite chili pepper.  It has such an amazing flavour – very fragrant and fruity, as well as the excellent kick it provides (it rates as 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville Scale).

This jam is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s definitely worth making.  It can be added to sauces or used as a condiment just as it is, or (of course) spread on your toast as a rich and spicy jam.

Our lovely yellow-fleshed, red-skinned plums.
Our lovely yellow-fleshed, red-skinned plums.

Ingredients

  • About 5.5 kilos (around 12 lbs) red-skinned plums, stones removed
  • 3 – 4.5 cups white sugar
  • 4 whole Habanero, seeds removed

Method

Chop the plums up roughly and put them in a large preserving pan.  Sprinkle the sugar on top and let them sit like this for an hour or so, stirring from time to time to help the sugar dissolve.

Second boiling of the sauce.
Second boiling of the sauce.

Bring this slowly to the boil, stirring at frequent intervals to prevent anything sticking to the base of the pan.  Once boiling steadily, maintain the boil for about 10 minutes then turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Repeat the above process 3 times (or more if you would like a thicker jam).  The main thing to remember is that you have to stir frequently, especially while you are waiting for the fruit to come to the boil, to avoid the fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan and scorching.

If this does happen, don’t panic… transfer the jam to another container without scraping any of the ‘caught’ jam from the bottom of the pan.  Wash the pan then carry on with the process.  You can stop and start with this recipe easily.

A dollop of spicy jam.
A dollop of spicy jam.

This batch produced about 3 litres of wonderfully rich jam.  Actually, I could just eat it directly from the spoon, rather than add it to anything else. 🙂

Notes

Red Plums versus Yellow Plums
Some of the jars of jam.  You can see the lovely dark colour it becomes, from even using yellow-fleshed plums...
Some of the jars of jam. You can see the lovely dark colour it has developed.

You could use yellow-skinned plums for this recipe, or even greengages, but the red-skinned plums give the jam the most wonderfully rich colour, even using yellow-fleshed plums as I have.

Sugar

I began with 3.5 cups of sugar and then tested the flavour part way through the cooking.  It was then that I decided to add an additional .5 of a cup.  It’s a matter of personal taste and also, the sugar level in the plums themselves.  Also, I like to cut down added sugar where I can, so I tend to start out with a bit less in a recipe such as this, and then add more if I need to.

The above recipe has been adapted from a recipe I found on the Natasha’s Kitchen site.

Pear and Avocado Smoothie

Ready to eat.  Yum Yum!
Ready to eat. Yum Yum!

At this time of year when there are lots of avocados and pears around, this recipe is just perfect.

I came across it in the book, ‘Good Housekeeping Easy to Make Smoothies & Juices (2009), Collins and Brown’, and the result is an incredibly yummy smoothie-dessert.

The texture is velvety, the colour is sublime and the flavour!  Well, let’s just say that although the combination of pear and avocado may sound unusual to some, it’s definitely worth trying.

Ingredients

  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 ripe dessert pears
  • 1 small, ripe avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime

Method

  • Peel and core the pears.
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone, and separate the flesh from the skin.
  • Peel the lemon, removing as much of the white pith as possible, cut into segments and remove any pips.
  • Put the pears, avocado and lemon  into a blender, along with the lime juice.  Blend until smooth.

If you’d like to add a ‘zing’ to your smoothie, a dash of something hot would enhance it.  Add a dash of ‘Kaitaia Fire‘ or Tabasco sauce, or a tiny piece of habanero chilli to the blend.

Pears are falling daily from the old pear tree.
Lovely fresh, ripe pears.

Tangy Vegan Curry

Vegan curry with Basmati rice and roti
Tangy Vegan curry with Basmati rice and Roti

Serves 4

This curry could be adapted to use any combination of vegetables, but to my personal taste, is enhanced if potato is included.

We had a surplus of zucchini and had to dispose of some tomato plants that weren’t surviving very well in the heat and dryness of our front porch – hence the green tomatoes.   Ripe, red tomatoes would do just as well, as would using tofu in the mix.

The mix of vegetables in the curry is about 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 zucchini and 1/3 green tomatoes.

I served this curry with white Basmati rice and freshly-made Roti.

Ingredients

  • Potatoes (a good floury variety)
  • Green tomatoes
  • Zucchini (starchy Costata Romanesco is ideal)
  • 1 medium onion (finely sliced)
  • Sunflower oil
  • Freshly crushed garlic (2 or 3 cloves)
  • Fresh chili to taste (I prefer Habanero)
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon juice (1/2 large or 1 smallish lemon)

Preparation

Chilli, spices, garlic and onion

Habanero chilli, spices and crushed garlic
Habanero chilli, spices and crushed garlic

Finely chop the chilli, measure the spices, crush the garlic and slice the onion evenly, ahead of time.  This will enable the curry to be cooked quickly, which is important if you wish to retain the best features of the ingredients.

Potatoes

Sauteed potatoes
Sauteed potatoes

Peel and dice about 3 medium sized potatoes and sauté them in  a little oil until they are cooked through and have started to develop a crispy golden coating.  Remove these from the pan and set aside.

Zucchini

Sautéed zucchini
Sautéed zucchini

Do the same with the zucchinis.  Slice them into chunky pieces and sauté them in a little hot oil until they are ‘just’ beginning to cook through and have developed a golden colouring.  Set these aside, also.

Green Tomatoes

Roughly chopped green tomatoes
Roughly chopped green tomatoes

Peel and roughly chop the green tomatoes.  They can be irregular in size as long as they aren’t too thick – they will soon soften once they are added to the curry.

Method

Wipe out the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of oil and raise the heat.  When it is good and hot, add about a tablespoon of black mustard seeds and heat them until they start to pop.  Then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander seeds, chilli, ginger and lemon juice to the pan and cook for 1 minute.

Turn the heat down to less than half way and add the sliced onion.  Gently cook this until it turns transparent, but don’t over-cook it – you want to still be able to see the slices in the curry.  About half way through this cooking process, stir in the crushed garlic so that it has the chance to cook through.

Add the vegetables to the onion and spices and stir through
Add the vegetables to the onion and spices and stir through

When the onion is ready, add the potato, zucchini and green tomato.  Stir these through carefully, mixing them in with the spices and onion but taking care to keep the pieces intact.  Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat down to low.

Gently cook until the tomatoes have softened, and the zucchini and potatoes are well-heated, stirring from time to time.  This should take no more than 20 minutes.

When the curry is cooked through, check for seasoning and serve.

Zucchini Pickle

Image

Ingredients

  • 500 grams zucchini, very finely sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp plain salt
  • 500 ml cider vinegar
  • 140 grams caster sugar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • habanero pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

Method

Thinly slice the zucchinis using a sharp knife or a mandolin.  Place these in a bowl with the finely-chopped onion and sprinkle with the salt.  Cover with ice-cold water, stir to dissolve the salt, and leave for 1 hour.  Drain the zucchini well and pat dry using a clean tea towel.

Image

While the zucchini are soaking, add the vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, mustard seeds, celery seeds, habanero and ground turmeric to a preserving pan and bring to a simmer.  Allow to bubble for 3 minutes, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved, then allow to cool until just warm.  Add the zucchinis and stir.

Add the pickle to sterilised jars.  I then used the water bath method to finish off this recipe.

Notes

This will make approximately 1 litre of the pickle.  For this recipe I used the zucchini, Costasta Romanesco as it’s the only zucchini I grow these days.  Not only does it produce the huge male flowers useful for stuffing and deep frying, but the texture and flavour of the flesh is far superior to that of regular zucchini.

Adapted from the ‘Crunchy Courgette Pickle’ recipe, posted on the BBC Good Food website.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/681665/crunchy-courgette-pickle

Plum Chutney

ImageIngredients

  • 2 kg plums, stones removed (and skins, too, if you have the energy)
  • 500 grams finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • 4 cups of soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp plain salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • habanero pepper to taste (seeds removed)
  • 4 cups malt vinegar

Method

Combine plums, onions, raisins, sultanas, garlic, brown sugar, salt, mixed spice and habanero in a preserving pan.  Add enough malt vinegar to almost cover and stir well.

ImageBring to the boil and simmer gently with frequent stirring for 2 hours, or until the chutney as thickened to a jam-like consistency.

(I was too lazy to remove the skins before cooking, so I picked them out once they were floating on top.)

Pack into sterilised jars and seal while hot.

ceriselineNotes

This will make enough for 6 x 350 ml jars.

Unopened, this chutney will keep for up to 1 year.  Once opened, store in the fridge.

Adapted from the recipe for Fruit Chutney, published in ‘Edmonds Chutneys, Pestos, Jams & Other preserves, (2000), p. 12.